In 2011, we wrestled with the age-old issue of how best to help those living without sufficient food and nutrition in our community. We were especially concerned about the impact that poverty was having on innocent children. The statistics were startling -- the USDA estimated that 1 in 6 children may not have consistent access to enough food for a healthy life. A group of us wrestled with how we could make a difference in their lives. We asked the question "what would Jesus do" and the answer became clear.
We pitched the idea of providing food to elementary "food-insecure" children to Mt. Bethel Church. The idea was received with enthusiasm but it was evident that a great deal of research would be needed to get such a venture off the ground. No need to worry, though ... God stepped in and the idea took off!
Within a few weeks, a team of dedicated Christians from Mt. Bethel formed and worked with a "let's get it done" attitude. A former teacher, who understood the huge need for this ministry, recommended Fair Oaks Elementary School, here in Cobb County, as the ideal target. After the first meeting with the Fair Oaks principal, we knew we had the perfect match! A week later, the church provided access to the Cagle House for our operational use. All the pieces came together. We had a team, a place, and a school with a true need as well as administration and faculty who wanted to make this work for their worthy students.
We started small -- delivering about 120 back packs every week to 4th graders during the school year. We provided students a back pack filled with 17 nutritious but tasty foods and snacks; students soon came to treasure Fridays when they heard the blue back packs being wheeled down the hallways for delivery! We expanded to 200 students the next year and grew to serving over 500 children each week by 2015. By 2020, we were delivering over 600 back packs per week and had added new partnerships with Acworth Elementary School as well as the Atlanta Salvation Army After School Program.
When COVID interrupted the 2020 - 2021 school season we did not roll over quietly! We made a pivot in operations to partner with the Fair Oaks Pantry and Mosaic Church in order to continue providing nourishment to the Fair Oaks community of families. In August of 2021, we resumed "normal" operations, delivering backpacks again to the students at Fair Oaks and the Salvation Army After School Program. In August, 2023, we added Milford Elementary School as one of the schools we partner with in the fight on food-insecurity.
This is all possible only because we have a base of hundreds of dedicated, caring volunteers of all different walks and ages. Groups of these amazing souls come together each week during the school year to stage, pack, and deliver the backpacks on Fridays. We are also blessed with loving donors and key partners who make this ministry possible. As a result, BackPack Blessings has provided 151,000 backpacks of food to children these past 11 years who otherwise would have gone without over the weekend.
BUT THE STORY DOES NOT END THERE ...
BackPack Blessings not only provides food to these children -- we also deliver and demonstrate the love of Christ. We have laughed, played, and studied with the children! We have also provided special gifts, bible messages, and treats on holidays. And, yes, we've even prayed in the hallways for the children, staff and their families. The principals who have served Fair Oaks Elementary over this past decade have recognized us as an important part of the community as well as one of the keys to improved student performance. Indeed, as a direct result of BackPack Blessings, we have seen improvement in student test scores, reading skills, behavior, attendance, and health!
We give heartfelt thanks to all of our volunteers, partners, and donors for their generous support. We pray that you will consider joining this ministry and get a chance to experience the joy and love the students share so freely whenever they see the blue backpacks coming!
Thanks corporate & community donors
BackPack Blessings' original partner -- since 2011
BackPack Blessings' newest partner, starting in August 2023
BackPack Blessings' partner -- since 2017
How can I volunteer my small group to serve at one of the BackPack Blessings events?
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know the name and size of your organization, date(s) you would like to serve, and your contact info. We will check the master schedule and get back in touch with you!
How can we form a corporate sponsorship or school partnership with BackPack Blessings?
Contact Tony Palermo, at email@example.com
What percent of my donation will actually be used to buy food for the backpacks?
All donations are used directly to benefit the children. Almost all donations are used to support food purchases, but a small portion goes to cover the cost of backpacks and transport costs to deliver backpacks to the school. There are no rent charges, salaries, or administrative fees at BackPack Blessings, so your donation goes 100% to the benefit of the children!
What is the Fair Oaks Food Pantry?
Fair Oaks Elementary School opened the Fair Oaks Food Pantry on February 26, 2019 to help Cobb families battling food insecurity. Shelves are stocked with food staples, personal hygiene items, and gently used clothes. Back Pack Blessings donated all of the shelving and storage and partners with the Fair Oaks Food Pantry, as well as other partners such as MUST Ministries and the Atlanta Community Food Bank. During the COVID crisis, Back Pack Blessings operations shifted to exclusively support the Fair Oaks Food Pantry because deliveries in the schools were restricted.
When will BackPack Blessings resume normal operations and backpack deliveries given the changes required because of COVID?
On August 27, 2021, BackPack Blessings delivered the first backpacks to our partners since the COVID-19 pandemic began -- almost 18 months! We are back on a weekly schedule for the 2022-2023 school year. Please see our calendar on the VOLUNTEER page of our website to see future packing/delivery dates and the weekly breaks when there is no delivery.
Volunteers should not come serve any time they do not feel well, have a temperature, or have any signs of COVID or colds or the flu.